Nick Pope as promised, I wanted to make a statement about yesterday’s release of UK government UFO files. I’ve been tied up in discussions with the media and The National Archives about this, so apologize for not having commented earlier.
First, the good news. 15 of the 18 remaining Ministry of Defence UFO files have now been released. This is, as I said in many of the media interviews that I did to announce this release, a good news story in terms of open government and freedom of information. I stand by those remarks.
Now, the bad news. As anybody who has tried to access the files will have discovered, they haven’t been digitized and they aren’t available online. People will either have to order them, pay whatever price The National Archives quote, and then wait a few weeks for them to arrive. Alternatively, people will have to go in person to The National Archives in Kew, where the files can be accessed in the onsite reading room. In further bad news, three files have still to be released, though it’s my hope that these can be made available later this year, possibly as early as next month, after the July meeting of the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives, which needs to formally approve the transfer of these records.
I’m disappointed that none of these final 18 files will be digitized and made available for download. This is what happened with all previous batches of these files, which were made available free of charge for the first month. Clearly this raised expectations that this would happen with the final 18 files, and as I said in many of my media interviews, the fact that these last 18 files are more difficult (and expensive) to get hold of has inevitably raised suspicions that the government is making these files hard to get. For the record, this was not my decision, and doing it this way would not have been my choice.
Notwithstanding the above, the nine year project to declassify and release the MoD’s archive of UFO files is nearly complete, and we’re further forward now than we were two days ago. I’m sure plenty of people will have been in The National Archives reading room today and I’m sure it won’t be long before people start posting copies of the material on various websites – though I can’t encourage anyone to break laws concerning Crown Copyright.
As I said in some of my media interviews, 24 June is the 70th anniversary of Kenneth Arnold’s ‘flying saucer’ sighting that marked the beginning of the modern UFO mystery. 70 years on, the interest in the release of these real-life X-Files shows that interest in the UFO phenomenon is still strong. credit Nick Pope